AMS Spring 2023

Prodways Adds onto Hearing Division with Latest 3D Printing Acquisition

Inkbit

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Prodways, the French additive manufacturing (AM) original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and service bureau, announced that it has acquired Auditech Innovations. The latter company, also based in France, specializes in producing custom hearing protection devices, especially for individuals working in environments noisy enough to create health risks.

According to Prodways’ press release, the third leading form of occupational illness in France is deafness. In turn, nearly 300,000 individuals in France purchase custom-made ear protection devices per year.

Image courtesy of Prodways

Although the cost of the acquisition was undisclosed, Prodways notes that it used its available cash to purchase the company, and that amount totaled €17 million at the end of 2021 (or $17.316 million). Auditech Innovations’ sales numbers totaled about €3 million in 2021. Prodways own sales numbers were €71 million last year, and the company’s revenue was up 37 percent in the first quarter of 2022, compared to Q1 of last year. Combined with the slowing global economic growth, all of these factors likely made the present an ideal time for Prodways to buy.

Prodways, founded in 2013, started making its entry into the audiology market via its 2017 acquisition of French hearing aid and hearing protection company Interson-Protac. This seems to have been a successful strategy for Prodways, as, prior to its latest purchase, the company acquired another hearing aid manufacturer, in 2019. Its hearing division accounted for nearly €10 million last year, so the addition of Auditech Innovations should increase the division’s sales by at least 30 percent.

Image courtesy of Interson-Protac

Prodways has been expanding its dental division this year, as well, with its announcement last month of a distribution partnership with Dental Axess, a Swiss digital dental manufacturing software provider. In the post about that announcement, I noted, “Aside from hearing aids…[dental devices] are probably the most commercially prevalent application of 3D printers, at least at this point in the industry’s history. …As such, developments in the dental sector can be viewed as potential leading indicators for other sectors in the overall 3D printing industry.” The same can be said, and probably even more so, about hearing devices.

Moreover, it’s notable that Prodways has been having such a successful year, at the same time that confidence in the global economy, overall, has turned so dour. Obviously, against such a volatile backdrop, things could change at any moment. On the other hand, it is also possible, as I said, that Prodways is a leading indicator of the AM sector’s financial health, in which case the sector as a whole may have hit a bottom.

If that’s the case, there are reasons to believe that it could start to turn around slowly throughout the second half of this year. Certainly, the problems plaguing the rest of the economy are problems AM has solutions to. Even more crucially, they’re solutions that could likely be implemented without much short-term disruption to existing industries.

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